ruminant, any of a group of hooved mammals that chew their cud, i.e., that regurgitate and chew again food that has already been swallowed. Ruminants have an even number of toes on each foot and a stomach with either three or four chambers. In the first chamber, called the rumen, the food is mixed with fluid to form a soft mass, the cud, or bolus. The regurgitated cud, after having been slowly chewed, is swallowed again, and passes through the rumen into the other stomach chambers for further digestion. The group, a suborder of the mammalian order Artiodactyla, includes goats, sheep, cows, camels, and antelope.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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